Toxic Trade News / 5 April 2010
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BAN blasts ISRI electronic scrap policy
by Michael Marley, American Metals Market
5 April 2010 (Philadelphia) – The new policy on electronic scrap from the Institute for Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) has drawn a salvo of fire from an environmental group that says the policy fails to take into account international rules and doesn't ensure that the discards will be handled appropriately when exported.

Seattle-based Basel Action Network (BAN), denounced ISRI's e-scrap policy as a "greenwash," adding that it continues the same "export your harm" approach to toxic electronic wastes produced in the United States.

ISRI's e-scrap export policy fails to take note of the Basel Convention, a United Nations agreement that strictly regulates global trade in wastes.

"Dumping toxic, problematic wastes on developing countries is an easy way to make money, and the U.S. scrap industry seems hell-bent on perpetuating that practice even when it has been globally outlawed," Jim Puckett, BAN's executive director, said in a statement.

The BAN attack comes on the heels of a unanimous decision by ISRI's board to adopt the policy, which spells out how e-scrap processors should handle such materials and what U.S. exporters must do to ensure their products don't contribute to health hazards and pollution overseas (AMM, March 26).

The e-scrap policy also ran into opposition from a member of the ISRI task force that drafted the policy. Wendy Neu, senior vice president of Hugo Neu Corp., a major investor in Mount Vernon, N.Y.-based WeRecycle! LLC, said the institute's policy puts the burden for demonstrating responsible e-scrap recycling on foreign importers and failed to place any liability for harm to human health and the environment on U.S. e-scrap exporters.

Robin Wiener, the Washington-based trade group's president, has argued that the institute's policy supports "responsible recycling of electronics in compliance with both domestic and international legal requirements."

Eric Harris, ISRI's director of governmental and international affairs, asserted that ISRI's e-scrap policy doesn't ignore the Basel Convention, but instead adheres to many of its provisions as well as other international rules dealing with e-scrap.

If offshore processors have the technology and the facilities to manage these materials properly, ISRI's policy says they should be allowed to conduct business in the global market. Otherwise, "the alternative is to ban everything and that simply won't work," he said.

The U.S. scrap industry is not turning a "blind eye" to how the materials are handled. It has the know-how to handle these materials and expects to share that knowledge with offshore recyclers, according to Harris.

Some believe the export of electronic products for reuse offshore­and not scrapping­is outside hazardous waste trade rules since they are being used again and not dismantled, Harris said.

But electronic products aren't hazardous waste when exported. It is only when metals and other materials are removed from those products that they can become toxic if not disposed of properly, he added.

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